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Mold: Concerns

Purdue Extension > Extension Disaster Education Network > Mold: Concerns

Mold: Concerns

Mop and bucket

What to do first?

How do I clean up and remove mold from my home?

To clean up mold, the area needs to be dried as quickly as possible. Mold will begin to grow in 24-48 hours, depending on the temperatures. Porous materials should be thrown away as they are difficult to clean. If the moldy area is less than a 3 foot by 3 foot area, in most cases, the homeowner can do the job themselves. If there is greater damage, you may want to consult with a professional.

Safe Cleanup

The after effects of a flood can result in a number of potential dangers for home owners who are cleaning up their home site. It is important to use caution and make sure the cleanup is a safe one. Standing water should be removed as quickly as possible. The microorganisms can penetrate in porous materials and later can be released into the air or water.

Flood waters and the dirt they carry may pose special problems for people who have an existing lung disease. Standing water remaining from any flood is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and inhaled. Even when flooding is due to a fairly clean source, the growth of microorganisms can still cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

The greatest health risk after a flood comes from water-borne bacteria. The dirt and mold left behind is also of special concern to those with a preexisting lung disease. The dust residue and sediment left after a flood can be inhaled during cleanup efforts and also add to the complications.

The after effects of a flood can result in a number of potential dangers for home owners who are cleaning up their home site. It is important to use caution and make sure the cleanup is a safe one. Standing water should be removed as quickly as possible. The microorganisms can penetrate in porous materials and later can be released into the air or water.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Drying everything in the home after a flood is crucial. Excess moisture in the home is a concern. Areas with high levels of humidity and moist materials provide the ideal environment for the growth of microorganisms which could result in additional health hazards. Coming into contact with contaminated air and water can make a person sick. Also, long-term high levels of humidity can foster the growth of dust mites, which are a major trigger of allergic reactions and asthma.

The drying process of a flooded home can take a long time, and homeowners need to be patient. It is necessary to keep the homes' air quality healthy during this time even though it may be the least of your problems. If the house is not dried out properly, a musty odor will develop, signifying the growth or microorganisms which can remain long after the flood. Household items must be dried completely before they are brought back in the home.

The drying process of a flooded home can take a long time, and homeowners need to be patient. It is necessary to keep the homes' air quality healthy during this time even though it may be the least of your problems. If the house is not dried out properly, a musty odor will develop, signifying the growth or microorganisms which can remain long after the flood. Household items must be dried completely before they are brought back in the home.

Remove contaminated mud by shoveling out as much as you can, then use a hose to wash mud from hard surfaces. Start cleaning walls at the bottom as this is usually where the damage is worst.

Clean by scrubbing surfaces with a brush, hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner and a final rinse.

Disinfect bacteria. Bacteria must be destroyed by disinfecting or sanitizing. Wipe or spray surfaces with a solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or use a product that is labeled with an EPA registration number as a disinfectant. Disinfectants and sanitizers contain toxic substances. Read and follow label instructions carefully, and always ventilate the room by opening doors and windows.

Dry by using cross-ventiliation with entrance and exhaust openings. Place a fan in a window or door with the fan to the outdoors. Seal the rest of the opening with plywood or blankets so the fan can create a vacuum. Make sure any wood that would be covered with dry wall, paneling or other covering has a moisture content of less than 15%.

It can be difficult to throw away damaged items, particularly those with sentimental value. Materials that are wet and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

Extension Publications

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home After the Flood
Cleaner and disinfectant chart with types of cleaners, uses, precautions and additional suggestions. (Source: North Dakota State University Extension Service, May 1997)

Wear Protective Clothing During Flood Cleanup (PDF)
(Source: Kansas State University, August 1993)

How to Save Upholstered Furniture, Carpet, Bedding (PDF)
(Source: Kansas State University, August 1993)

How to Salvage Flood-Damaged Appliances (PDF)
(Source: Kansas State University, August 1993)

Purdue Fact Sheet

Flooding and Mold Damage (PDF: 34 KB)
Mold in the Home (PDF: 41 KB)